Let me apologise in advance. I suspect this blog may be responsible for a large number of pulled muscles, bad backs and visits to the physio. TAB/York’s first New Year’s resolution, given out a month early – we all need to get fitter.
Not for the usual reasons – you unexpectedly caught sight of yourself in a mirror; you’ll finally be able to get back into your favourite jeans. No, it’s something rather more sordid than that. Money.
As usual, we have to go to the States for the evidence. Two economists at the University of Texas conducted a long term study. They came to two conclusions:
- Fit, good-looking people earn more money (on average, around $5,000 a year according to our economists)
- And they earn more for their companies as well (which is probably why they’re paid more)
Can that be true? Does physical appearance have anything to do with success and earnings? There’s an urban myth in the States that the taller of the two major party candidates always wins the Presidential Election. Is that right?
Well, there have been 28 presidential races since 1900 – the taller candidate has won 19 times, with Senator Short winning 7. And no, my maths isn’t wrong – there have been two presidential races where the candidates were the same height. (Mind you, if we follow that theory to its logical conclusion then the Republicans should forget Sarah Palin and persuade Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan to run against Obama in 2012.)
But consider this. A survey of Fortune 500 CEO’s in 2005 found that their average height was six feet – or two to three inches taller than average. And 30% of the CEO’s were 6’2” or more – compared to only 3.9% of the US male population.
So which do you reach for? Platforms or trainers? Sadly, it’s the trainers. You can’t do much about your height: the vast majority of us can get fitter.
Why is being fit an advantage in business? Let’s start at the beginning. Every study I’ve come across – UK, America, Japan and India – indicates that children who are physically fit do better at school. The popular stereotype of the ‘dumb jock’ simply isn’t born out by the statistics. And what’s true at school is true in the office. Being fitter will help you think more clearly, work effectively for longer and – as we enter another challenging year – avoid stress. (You’ll also look taller, if you’re still hankering after a political career.)
Now I have to move from the empirical to the anecdotal. Every successful person I ever met did something in their spare time that physically challenged them. I thought I’d found the exception when I was at the TAB conference in Denver. I was talking about fitness and business to the (toned and very successful) owner of the Denver Board. “I don’t do much,” he said. “Walk the dog four or five times a week, that’s all.”
I looked at the concrete jungle surrounding us. “Where?” I said.
He pointed at a peak in the distance. As far as I could tell it was about 3,000 feet high and three miles away. “Up there,” he said.
So the story for 2011 is get fit. We all look better when we’re fitter and – politically correct or not – the stats are there for everyone to see. Maybe I should introduce a dress code for future Board meetings – shorts and T-shirts…